Soon after the Bhutan trip I started getting the familiar symptoms of Wanderitis and began searching for the next get away. I didn’t have to wait too long. Friends from Mumbai sent me the details of a group tour to Lahaul & Spiti and I signed up .
Spiti is a least populated cold desert mountain valley with surreal landscapes , high mountain passes, enchanting lakes and picture postcard hamlets is cut off from the rest of the country for almost eight months during winter and is open from late July till October.Spiti means The Middle Land-the land between Tibet and India and is in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This terrain is noted for the most scenic and the most treacherous roads and is prone for landslides.
The trip started from Chandigarh where I met the fellow travellers coming from Mumbai. I was excited to meet my four friends after almost two years . Six couples and a family with their daughter and grandson(the youngest member ) completed the group . There was no time for formal introductions . No worries, I would be getting to know them in the coming days. After a quick lunch at a local hotel we started for Shimla-our halt for the night.We were staying in a hotel at Taradevi away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I am an insomniac during travel and was waiting for the dawn to get out of the room.
By this time my roommate joined me and we went to a small temple nearby.Two friendly mountain dogs kept us company.From the temple we spotted a quaint railway station.It was exciting to see the Kalka-Shimla Railway-the narrow gauge railway passing through 102 tunnels and 864 bridges and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We waited for sometime but no train was in sight.
By 10 we were ready to to leave and after a customary group photo set off for the next destination Sarahan.This is another thing I like about Himachal Pradesh. It has such sweet sounding districts and towns-Chamba,Kullu,Kinoo, Jipsa,Solan, Seoni,Tapri,Chitkul, Una and more.
The roads are pretty good and there was not much traffic.Breathtaking views, pleasant weather and friends-I couldn’t have asked for more.
A special feature of this tour was the travelling kitchen . Arjun and his dedicated team pampered us with simple, wholesome , fresh and yummy food. It was nice having the meals on the roadside and it reminded me of school picnics.
Soon Sutlej river came into view and the landscape started to look different. Over the next two days we saw different shades of Sutlej-the most sacred river of Himachal Pradesh. We are now in Rampur . From here onward one can see a lot of hydropower plants.
From Rampur it was 34 km to Sarahan. Pine and cedar forests gave way to lush apple orchards and traditional houses made of wood and stone . I was excited to see the fruit laden tress and had a wild impulse to pluck some.Himachal apples have a fascinating history. They were introduced in the state in 1916 by an American missionary Samuel Evans Stokes and since then they have become the most important cash crop of the region. Royal delicious,Red delicious and Golden delicious are the most common types grown here. All of us feasted on the fresh and juicy apples and wanted to buy more. This would make an ideal gift from here.
Sarahan is the gateway to Kinnaur_our next destination and is at a height of 7850 ft.This was the summer capital of the erstwhile Bushahr kingdom and is steeped in mythology. The Bhimkali Temple dominates the little town.
There are a couple of small shops and guest houses around the temple.By the time we reached the temple was closed.
Our hotel was a modest one right in the center of the town and very close to the Bhimkali temple. It was a long day and tomorrow is going to be another long one.Time to hit the bed.